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Why SDS RiskAssist?
Four years of research into how organizations and individuals handle workplace chemicals led us to re-think how to approach WHMIS and the use of Safety Data Sheets (SDSs). We saw the need for a tool that would quickly read and digitize SDSs so that a data driven approach to chemical safety management could be used. We call this tool SDS RiskAssist.
SDS RiskAssist, formally known as Rillea Technologies, was founded in 2016 by two chemical engineers with a combined 60 years experience in chemicals manufacturing, gained primarily in large organizations (ExxonMobil and DuPont) with extensive resources, outstanding training programs and a relentless focus on workplace health and safety.
One common observation they both had from these experiences was the importance of a systematic approach to safety that focused on hazard identification, risk management and the creation of procedures to effectively train the workers who are tasked with keeping the organization running.
Since its founding, SDS RiskAssist has been researching how WHMIS and chemical safety is conducted in different organizations. This research has consisted of hundreds of conversations with end-users, supervisors, managers, suppliers and regulatory officials. Rillea has also reviewed over 30,000 SDSs in 200 workplaces. Three results from the research highlight the challenges all organizations face:
We believe that every person handling chemicals can understand the hazards and be prepared to protect themselves, those around them and the environment.
Change Your WHMIS Focus to People From Paper
According to CAREX Canada, an organization funded by Canadian Partners Against Cancer, over 3 million Canadians are exposed to carcinogens in the workplace every year. The knowledge and equipment to change this is available, but only if each and every organization looks at the hazards in their SDSs.
Yet, since the implementation of WHMIS in the 1980’s, there are two things Government Inspectors, Managers, and Joint Health and Safety Committees ask:
“Are our SDSs up-to-date and are our workers trained?”
As a result, a mindset has developed that WHMIS compliance requires only that the sheets be kept up to date and general WHMIS education be provided. This assumes workers read, understand and act on the information in the SDS.
Here are 2 points to consider when asking workers to read all the SDSs in your collection:
A supplier of product with the hazard statement “May Cause Cancer” suggests the following PPE:
Rillea’s definition of chemical specific training is something that a worker will follow at 2 AM Saturday morning when there is no one around to ask a question or to ensure it is being followed. Does reading this SDS meet that definition? Clearly not. Why? Because the employer is the one who needs to identify the specific gloves (i.e. – blue nitrile gloves) and respirator (i.e. -half face respirator with organic cartridges) required based on how the product is used, availability of equipment and their health and safety standards.
WHMIS was developed to protect workers from hazardous chemicals. It was not developed to generate binders of paper that no one reads.
Audit your SDSs to See Your Chemical Hazards
“Audit the health and safety management system of any company and you’ll likely find that the large majority of hazard assessments fail to recognize chemical exposure at all, never mind carcinogen exposure. If a hazard is not being recognized, then it will not be controlled and the occupational exposure to the toxic substances will continue. Occupational exposure to carcinogens and other serious chronic toxics is largely going undetected.”Jones, Glyn. “Occupational Hygiene Skills Lacking.” Canadian Occupational Safety December/January 2019: 12. Print.
SDS RiskAssist comes at this problem with a data-driven approach that allows you to quickly make decisions that improve safety and increase efficiency. All your SDSs are read by the software and you get an instantaneous overview of all your hazards along with a detailed look at each product. How can this help? Consider the following table. It was created using SDS RiskAssist which read 16,000 SDSs in 119 workplaces (200,000 pages) and created a database of information.
With these leading indicators at your fingertips, you can prioritize your chemical management activities, set clear metrics, budget for expertise, and audit against these metrics for continuous improvement – just like you manage all your other safety activities.
Choose Safer Products
“Preventive measures should consist first of the elimination of hazards, then the reduction of hazards and finally, the provision of personal protective equipment, clothing, devices or materials, all with the goal of ensuring the health and safety of employees.”Canada Labour Code R.S.C., 2000, c. 20, s. 3.
When it comes to WHMIS and the use of chemicals, PPE is often the first thing people think of. With SDS RiskAssist you can start with the first option and look to eliminate or substitute your hazardous products.
Municipalities use graffiti remover – lots of it! We evaluated 20 different products in use by our clients – 2 we eliminated as the sheets do not comply with WHMIS regulations. We rated the remaining 18 based on their WHMIS hazards along with their ingredients and the impact of those ingredients on employee health and the environment.
Look at signal word, the types of high-risk hazards (corrosive vs flammable vs chronic health) and the potential impact of the ingredients to identify safer products than the one currently in use.
Train on Safe Chemical Handling
Workers make decisions every day that keep their organizations running. Many of these decisions are intuitive in nature based on their experiences inside or outside the workplace. They usually don’t have time to search out additional information.
Your work on hazard identification and risk management is not useful if you can’t get the required information into the hands of workers in a manner they can access, understand and follow. With SDS RiskAssist you can add custom information to each SDS to create a 1-page summary for workers of the hazards and actions they need to take to protect themselves.
This chemical specific training is easily accessible on computers, mobile devices or can be printed in any size and you can even check to see if workers have reviewed the sheet.
Let’s Make Workplaces Healthier
Organizations have made great strides in improving workplace safety over the decades by utilizing the 3 steps of hazard identification, risk management and worker training. Yet when it comes to occupational disease, we have arguably seen things get worse.
It’s not that we don’t know what to do, it’s that the problem is overwhelming and resource intensive. The volume of information available, the growing number of chemicals in use, their high value to businesses, the complex nature of chemistry and the difficulty in linking long term impacts to today’s actions mean that resources for chemical safety often get eliminated or reduced in budgets.
WHMIS is the regulation in the health and safety field that can change the future of occupational disease in Canada. To make it economical to use WHMIS we developed SDS RiskAssist. But whatever tool or process you use, don’t ignore your Safety Data Sheets as that puts the health and safety of your workers at risk.
SDS RiskAssist absolutely deserves all the awards it has received to date! With the help of this cost-effective platform, we have been able to gain much better awareness about the chemical products that we manage. Our directors are very happy with the improved level of knowledge and oversight. So much so that they requested mobile access for themselves! The platform is intuitive and is a great resource for our staff, who find it much more accessible than binders or an online document repository. Visiting the site is becoming routine and the chemical-handling information is clear and consistent.”
Dr. Evangelia Iperifanou
Dental Director Unite Here Wellness & Dental Centre
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